… Saturday 20th February, 2010 was a poignant day for me. Friday 19th saw the final bits and pieces of our house and garden contents being packed into the container to go into storage. I awoke on the morning of the 20th in our bedroom with nothing in the house but my office equipment. I had a full day of work ahead of me and then the task of dismantling the office technical equipment!
Mid-evening I was sitting on the floor of our bedroom watching a movie on my laptop and thinking about the previous few days (more on that in another posting) … when a text message arrived on my mobile – ‘xxxx – have you seen the news re Madeira?’ As I didn’t have a TV, I hadn’t. I stopped the film – got onto the internet and searched. Wow! What I found was incredible. Of all the clips, videos’, etc. that I found on the internet, this one really explained how the water had rushed down the mountains – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=em4N0hVvADo … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlWAoxnwuFM&NR=1 … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=132vS9ByYNo&feature=related … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7GggrReZ8o&feature=related … and although the majority of the information that I found was based on Funchal – this video shows Ponto do Sol, Calheta beach (where I was swimming in September 2009) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTlBGdDEmYU&NR=1 (when you get the sub-title – the beach is gone – this, in September 2009 was a beautifully sandy beach (the sand imported from the Sahara)!) and Madelena do Mar. These three are towns/villages on the south coast, working your way west of Funchal.
I sent a text message back, then tried to call friends on the island – nothing! I could not get through. I then phoned my parents in Australia as I was really concerned that they might think we were in the middle of this. My husband was in the Algarve with his car and trailer, waiting to board the ferry the next day. I called him, as he too was unaware of the devastation. I then tried calling friends on the island again – still no connection! It was interesting as I had tried during the day and had not got a connection, but at that time thought nothing of it.
After a very restless night I was into Sunday – the last day I had in our house in the UK. I was expecting the new owners to pop round for an instruction on how the alarm worked! Two hours later they left and I was back on the phones … still no connection with Madeira. I was really worried about all the people we know on the island.
My husband in the meantime had driven to the ferry terminal – 2½ hour early – to find that he was the 25th car in line. As he watched 2 cranes arrive to board the ferry too he was pulled out of line. Being a weekly ferry he didn’t know if he was pulled out to see if there was still space for him, or if it was because he was towing a trailer. Thankfully when the ferry arrived late, after watching all the vehicles disembark he was boarded. Once boarded the ferry was held in port – eventually leaving 20 hours late (7am on the Monday morning). It was for this reason, he arrived on the Tuesday after the mud/water slides. The ferry took a lot longer from Portimao than scheduled landed successfully in the main harbour at Funchal (not the industrial harbours further along the South East coast) as we expected. As he disembarked from the ferry he was stopped by customs – he explained that all he had in the trailer (bright yellow)/car was household ‘stuff’ and that he was going ‘home’ to our new home on the west side of the island– the customs guy asked him to drive out of Funchal as quickly as possible and go home. The only comment was about re-registering the car … ! We believe that the reason for the lack of interest in what was actually in the car and trailer was that the queue of cars was holding up the unloading of the cranes My husband explained that although we had talked about using the road along the north of the island (longer, more twisty, but we believed not damaged) the roads from the port that were not cordoned off took him towards the south west motorway. Once onto the motorway he said that it was slippery, slow, and he had to weave around a number of boulders – but driveable! It took him probably an hour longer to do the journey than it would have done normally – but once at Paul do Mar (the village we have been staying in on the south west coast), he said the roads to Ponto do Pargo were fine. I later learnt that Ponto do Pargo had been warm and in sunshine on the 20th February, 2010 – the day of the disaster!
Driving out of Funchal I gathered that there was not a lot of see, but since then I’ve received many photographs of the devastation caused by the mud slides and rushing water! See these photos for an idea of the devastation in Funchal.